The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 opposed moves by Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Wale Babalakin to quash the charges instituted against him at a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
Babalakin was arraigned by the EFCC, alongside Alex Okoh and three companies: Stabilini Vision Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited on January 17, 2013, on a 27-count criminal charge that borders on conspiracy to commit felony, corruptly conferring benefit on account of public action and retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct to the tune of N4. 7 Billion.
The five defendants had in separate motions prayed that the charges against their clients be quashed based on the fact that the fiat which gave the EFCC powers to prosecute the defendants was issued under a law that has been repealed. Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, in a counter-affidavit dated February 12, 2013 told the court to disregard that Babalakin’s counsel’s submissions that the fiat used to initiate charges against his client was obsolete and so was unreliable.
According to him, “it is not the Criminal Justice Law that governs who can prosecute criminal cases in Lagos state but sections 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution.” This section, he argued, did not give a monopoly right to institute a criminal suit against any person to the Attorney General of the Federation or the Attorney General of a State; adding that other agencies such as the EFCC, the Police, and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have powers to prefer criminal charges against anyone in any court of law within the Federation.
He pointed out that if the constitution was seen as superseding all other laws in the country, then its provisions in sections 174 and 211 surpass all other laws relied on by Babalakin.He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the applications brought by Babalakin’s counsel, N.O Fagbemi, SAN, saying it was misconstrued and intended to waste the time of the court.According to Jacobs, “that the fiat cannot be used in present day because of repeal is not correct.
The fiat did not mention the year of the law, it only referred to the Criminal Code Law and the Criminal Prosecution Law, no year was mentioned. The Law that regulates the fiat is section 81 of the High Court Law and section 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution which gave the Attorney General of States powers to issue a fiat. It is not only based on the Lagos state Law that this was initiated, an Act of the National Assembly also gives powers to prosecute in High courts to EFCC based on the EFCC Act 2004”. Fagbemi in a motion of notice dated January 17, 2013 said the first defendant was applying to quash counts 1 to 12 of the charges against him before the court.
According to him, the fiat issued by the Attorney General of Lagos State in 2004 on which basis the prosecution preferred the charges had become obsolete as the Criminal Procedure Law 2003 which was relied on in granting the fiat has been repealed.Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, who appeared for the second defendant also informed the court about an application dated January 20, 2013 and a written address of same date, in which he prayed the court to quash the charges against his client.
Like the first defendant’s counsel, Oyetibo also challenged the use of the fiat to institute the case, adding that the proof of evidence did not support the charge against his client.Counsel to the third and fourth defendant, Roland Oar, SAN, and Joseph Knoblike, SAN, aligned themselves to the arguments of counsel to 1st and 2nd accused persons. Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo adjourned ruling on all the applications to July 9, 2013.